1 Karen D. Hamel Technical Specialist New Pig Corporation One Pork Avenue Tipton, PA (800) HOT- HOGS How to Reduce Industrial Slip and Fall Injuries with Floor Safety Programs August 2011
2 Summary In an industrial setting, slipping on a banana peel probably isn t a likely scenario. However, several common hazards do contribute to workplace slip, trip and fall hazards. Identifying those hazards, creating a plan to reduce them and teaching workers to be diligent about maintaining a floor safety program will help minimize or eliminate workplace slip and fall injuries. Understanding how a surface s coefficient of friction, environmental and human factors each play a role in slip and fall incidents lays the foundation for a proactive floor safety plan that addresses safety concerns and improves working conditions. Although OSHA does not specifically require a written floor safety plan, taking the time to evaluate walking surfaces, document floor safety hazards and establishing a written plan to improve and maintain floor surfaces is a proven way to reduce lost work time injuries and even employee deaths due to slips and falls. Workplace slips, trips and falls are a leading cause of lost work time injuries. Environmental conditions that contribute to slip and fall injuries can often be eliminated. Effective Floor Safety Plans are a proven way to reduce slip and fall incidents. Background Lost work time from slip and fall injuries may be a concern for employers, yet many just count the cost as a part of doing business and do not take the time to look at the root causes of these workplace injuries or for solutions to them. A Liberty Mutual study found that slip and fall incidents account for about 65% of lost workdays in the U.S. each year. According to the National Safety Council, employee slip and fall injuries cost industry about $70 billion annually, with an average cost per injury exceeding $12,000. OSHA requires employers to provide their employees with a safe work environment. Among the regulations is a requirement for floors to be properly maintained. The floor of every workroom shall be maintained in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition. Where wet processes are used, drainage shall be maintained, and false floors, platforms, mats, or other dry standing places should be provided where practicable. [29 CFR (a)(2)] Since the inception of this requirement, OSHA has sought to expand the standard to further increase floor safety. A proposed rule in a 1990 Federal Register states, OSHA does not expect all surfaces to be maintained in a pristine manner; however, surfaces must be maintained in a condition that will prevent slips, trips, falls and other hazards. On May 24, 2010, the most recent proposal to amend the standard identifies factors that contribute to slip and fall injury and death. Accident data show that many falls could be prevented if existing OSHA recommended safe practices were followed. The hazards generally can be grouped into three (often unrelated) factors: Equipment, human and environmental. Examples of some equipment factors include
3 improper footwear, uneven surfaces, foreign substances on surfaces such as oil or litter and unguarded sides and edges of elevated platforms. Some human factors are inattention, haste, human error, failure to follow instructions and fatigue. Environmental factors may include poor lighting and weather- related conditions. The presence of multiple factors increases the risk. In a 2003 interpretation letter, the director of Enforcement Programs for OSHA further clarifies, Slip- resistance can vary from surface to surface, or even on the same surface, depending upon surface conditions and employee footwear. Slip- resistant flooring material such as textured, serrated or punched surfaces and steel grating may offer additional slip resistance. These types of floor surfaces should be installed in work areas that are generally slippery because of wet, oily, or dirty operations. Slip- resistant footwear may also be useful in reducing slipping hazards. Like many OSHA regulations, maintaining workroom floors is a performance- based standard, so it is up to the employer to identify any hazards that may be present and determine the best solutions for their site. OSHA does not offer a lot of guidance on this topic, but in a non- mandatory appendix discussing slip resistance, they recommend a Coefficient Of Friction (COF) of 0.5 as a guide to achieve proper slip resistance, but also acknowledges that some situations may require a higher COF than this. No test method or testing instrument is specified for achieving the 0.5 COF, however. Several nationally recognized standards can help facilities determine the COF of their floor surfaces, and assist facilities with solutions to help make both wet and dry surfaces safer. One such standard is American National Safety Institute / American Society of Safety Engineers (ANSI / ASSE) A Standard for the Provision of Slip Resistance on Walking / Working Surfaces. According to this standard, Slip resistance of a walking surface is often a key consideration in employee safety and in the prevention of worker slips and falls. The standard presents solutions for footwear, mats and runners, housekeeping, warning signs and barricades as well as guidelines for monitoring the slip resistance of wet and dry surfaces. Measuring the COF of wet and dry surfaces is a key component in addressing floor safety issues. This can be done with pull meters or machines called tribometers. Various consensus standards address the correct use of these devices for both wet and dry surfaces. One of the most recent of these standards is the ANSI / NFSI (National Floor Safety Institute) B Standard Test Method for Measuring Wet SCOF of Common Hard- Surface Floor Materials. This test method can be applied to using a tribometer for, common hard- surfaced flooring materials such as ceramic tile, vinyl floor coverings, and wood laminates, as well as coatings, polishes, etc. In addition to developing standards, the NFSI is also committed to preventing slips, trips and falls though research and through testing and certification of products that contribute to high traction surfaces. Slip resistance of a walking surface is often a key consideration in employee safety and in the prevention of worker slips and falls
4 Causes of Slips, Trips and Falls Slips and trips occur when there is a sudden, unexpected change between a person s foot and a walking surface. About 60% of falls are the result of a slip or trip, according to NFSI. At a basic level, slips occur when there is a lack of traction or friction between a person s foot and the walking surface. Some common causes of slips are spills, inclement weather, improper cleaning techniques and unanchored rugs or matting. Trips happen when a person s foot hits an object, causing a loss of balance. Uneven walking surfaces, litter, wrinkled matting or carpeting, cables, objects protruding from racking and poor lighting are among the contributing factors for trips. Although many causes of slip, trip and fall incidents can be controlled or corrected, some cannot. A person s gait, for example, is among the human factors that are not easily managed by a workplace floor safety plan. Some employers do consider studies in kinesiology when creating a floor safety program, and others have even gone to the extent of bringing in safety professionals to teach workers how to fall in a manner that minimizes the potential for injury. About 60% of falls are the result of a slip or trip. Measuring COF Leonardo da Vinci ( ) is commonly credited with making the first studies of friction, and is acknowledged as the father of tribometry. He measured friction by hanging various loads on a cord and marking when a block began to slide. From his learning, the first two laws of friction were postulated. The first states that frictional force is independent of the area of the surfaces in contact. The second states that frictional force is proportional to the applied load. Today, friction is studied by safety professionals, scientists, mechanical engineers and many others. In machinery, friction can be a bad thing because it causes premature wear on parts. In walking surfaces, it is a good thing because the right amount of friction but not too much or too little- is needed to prevent slipping on the surface. The ASTM alone has over 20 standards addressing slip resistance and test methods for a variety of surfaces. OSHA recommends a COF of 0.5 on walking surfaces. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recommends 0.6 on flat surfaces and 0.8 on ramps. As a result, many codes now recognize a Static Coefficient of Friction (SCOF) of 0.5 as legal and enforceable for walkways, but most do not cite a test method or testing device to quantify those levels, causing controversy amongst professionals. A variety of meters and standards are available for measuring COF and SCOF. Among them are: Horizontal Drag (or Pull) Slip Meters (also called drag sleds) are the simplest of these tools, and they measure the point at which the horizontal force
5 acting upon a resting object causes it to move. Horizontal Dynamometer Pull Meters utilize a 50- pound block to measure COF by dividing the horizontal force by the vertical force. The ASTM D2047 standard describes the protocol for using a James Machine in a laboratory setting for measuring COF, and it is typically used to measure the COF of dry surfaces. This method was commonly used in the 1970 s. Portable Articulated Strut Tribometers(PAST), such as the Brungraber Mark I Device were used around the same time as James Machines and used similar devices to measure COF on both wet and dry surfaces. Variable Incidence Tribometers (VIT), such as the English XL and Portable Inclinable Articulated Strut Tribometers (PIAST) like the Brungraber Mark II have, for a large part, replaced PASTs, and are discussed in various ASTM standards. Sigler Pendulum Testers are commonly used outside the U.S., and they measure the loss of momentum when a pendulum stops. At least three ANSI and ASTM standards discuss using this type of device to measure COF. The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) recommends the BOT Tribometer for measuring wet SCOF using the ANSI / NFSI B test protocol. When selecting a device to measure slip resistance, it is important to choose the correct type of device, and for the person using that device to know how to use it properly. Most units need to be calibrated periodically, and most will not be able to test all surfaces. Walkway Audits Evaluating the workplace for slip, trip and fall hazards is a prerequisite to creating a floor safety program. A successful walkway audit will identify areas and conditions that present slip, trip and fall hazards throughout a facility. Walkway audits can be performed by on- site personnel, NFSI Certified Walkway Safety Auditors or safety consultants. Insurance carriers may also be hired to perform this task. All areas of the facility not just the assembly or production areas should be assessed. It is just as easy to slip on a coffee spill in a hallway near the cafeteria as it is to slip on an oily floor in fact, it may be more likely for the slip in an office hallway to occur because a production worker who is used to overspray or oil on a floor is more likely to be cautious in a work area where slips are likely than an executive who is used to a hallway being dry. Using a floor plan helps to ensure that no areas are missed. Take notes on the condition of each area. Some people find it useful to also use a camera to document conditions in each area so that it is easier to recall specific situations later. No single checklist can address every concern, but the following things should be noted during the evaluation: the type of floor (concrete, wood, tile, etc.) the general condition of the floor (wet or dry) lighting in the area, any causes of slipperiness (weather, overspray from machines, leaks and spills, aged floors, floor finishes, etc.) and any potential causes of trips (loose floorboards, uneven pavement, wrinkled
6 rugs, curled entrance mats, items extending into aisles from storage shelves, etc.) Two often overlooked areas are the parking lot and sidewalks surrounding the building. Potholes and parking curbs are common trip hazards in parking lots. Uneven sidewalks or any walking surface that varies by more than half an inch can contribute to a trip and fall. Consider seasonal weather conditions for outdoor areas as well. Tribometer readouts or findings can be used as part of the evaluation process to quantify the slip resistance of walking surfaces in various areas and can help identify any areas that may need to be improved to enhance safety. These readings, as well as the findings from the audit can be used as a benchmark for each area. As audits are conducted, speak with people who work or who are in the area frequently to identify concerns that may not be noticed during a casual walk- though. For example, if stock is low or it is a slow day in the warehouse when the audit is performed, fewer issues may be present than on a day when several trucks of supplies have just arrived. Likewise, a floor s surface may seem to be fine at the end of a shift, but may be very slippery when it has just been cleaned or vice versa. These things may be hard to determine with a onetime walk- through. Another alternative to this would be to encourage employees to use an anonymous suggestion box or similar system to gather floor safety problem areas that may otherwise go unnoticed. Identifying Root Causes and Improving Conditions Findings from a walkway audit identify the problems that will need to be corrected before a floor safety program can be fully implemented, but knowing the root cause of each of those problems is essential to finding the best solutions to put into the plan. Common causes of slip, trip and fall hazards include: lack of training, lack of spill clean- up materials, inconsistent hazard identification, improper footwear, lack of a weather contingency plan, and improper cleaning. As a floor safety program is created, consider ways to compensate for these causes. With problems and their causes identified, the next step is improving conditions. This typically needs to be done in phases. Review notes and photographs from each area, and consider comments that employees or others have made when documenting improvements that need to be made. Create a list of projects that need to be done, and determine how to accomplish all of the items on the list. For some facilities, the answer may be going from room to room and addressing all concerns within the room before moving to the next one. For others, the answer is going topic by topic. For example, address floor cleaning in all areas, then footwear, then signage, etc. In areas where changes need to be made, involve workers and supervisors to help ensure that the changes will be beneficial and that they will be able to be maintained long term. When performing a walkway audit, don t forget to check lobbies, foyers, parking lots and sidewalks.
7 Floor Safety Program Elements Developing a floor safety program can be approached in a similar manner to other required OSHA safety programs, such as a respiratory protection program or a lockout / tagout program. A comprehensive, effective floor safety program will address problems and present solutions for each affected area in the facility, outline a training program and contain a schedule for regular reviews and updates. Problems with a floor s surface contribute to over 50% of slip and fall injuries, according to the NFSI. Consider the following options to increase floor safety: Anti- slip paints and tapes may be used to increase traction on wood, concrete and even metal surfaces, but note that many of these will not adhere to oil- soaked surfaces. For floors that are saturated with oil, consider absorbent matting or rubber matting with drainage holes to enhance footing. In entrances, hallways or other non- production areas with finished floors, consider whether changing brands of finishes will help increase slip- resistance. Review cleaning schedules and products. Too much or too little of a cleaning chemical, or using the wrong kind of chemical for the floor are common contributors to floor safety problems. Schedule routine floor cleaning for times when traffic in the area is lowest. Proper footwear is another commonly addressed topic in floor safety programs. Be sure that plans address footwear for all employees. Office workers who enter slippery production areas in dress shoes are often more prone to injury than workers who work in the area daily, are used to the conditions and are wearing footwear designed for the area. When selecting footwear for workers in production areas, it is important to know what is making a floor slippery. Shoes designed to be slip- resistant in wet, outdoor conditions may not maintain their slip- resistance on a shop floor coated with oily overspray. Likewise, shoes designed for restaurant workers dealing with food- base oils may be quickly degraded by industrial cutting oils. Reputable footwear suppliers should be able to provide appropriate solutions. They should also be able to assist with establishing a change- out schedule. Even the best footwear needs to be replaced from time to time, because a shoe s sole with 50% of its tread worn means that the shoe is twice as likely to contribute to a slip and fall injury as a new shoe or one with less wear would be. Knowing whether to expect three months or six months out of a pair of safety shoes helps with budgeting expenses, and having a written plan for footwear replacement lets workers know that they are not expected to make a pair of shoes last forever. For office workers, stocking slip- resistant shoe covers at the entrances to production areas may be a solution to help improve safety, and may be a more viable solution than requiring everyone to wear safety shoes at all times. Proper signage can help remind office employees of the need for safety shoes (or covers) when entering production or other slippery areas.
8 Rain and snowmelt in entrances can quickly turn an otherwise safe area into a skating rink. Recessed floor wells and entrance mats are two ways to help keep water in check. In areas where seasonal weather conditions overwhelm typical entrance matting, absorbent matting may also be beneficial. When entrance mats are chosen, they should be long enough for a person to take three to four steps on the mat before stepping off of it. When a person does step off the mat, their feet should be dry. Mats that curl or bunch should be replaced. Consider the entrance mat s backing as well. A good entrance mat supplier should be able to recommend the best type of entrance mat and the correct backing for wood, tile, linoleum, marble, carpet or other entrance flooring types. Common areas, such as cafeterias, break rooms and coffee bars, are often hosts to small food and beverage leaks and drips. Having an adequate number of trash receptacles, and keeping sufficient supplies of paper towels or napkins in these areas, are simple solutions to help encourage workers to clean up small dribbles before they become a problem. In addition to providing supplies in common areas, having a protocol for cleaning up spills in processing areas, fluid transfer and waste collection areas will also help increase floor safety throughout the facility, because nuisance leaks and spills that are promptly cleaned up won t get tracked to other areas. Stocking spill kits or absorbent supplies in leak and spill prone areas provides workers with the resources they need to effectively handle incidental spills. In addition to providing absorbent materials, workers should have a convenient collection container to put spent absorbents in, because if they clean up a spill and leave the clean up materials on the floor, the spent materials can become a trip hazard for others. Allowing adequate time in production schedules for routine cleanups at the end of a shift or between batches makes floor safety everyone s job and helps to maintain floor safety efforts. There is a big difference between, I couldn t see it and I didn t see it. Verify that lighting is adequate in all areas inside and outside the facility, and that poor lighting is not contributing to floor safety issues. Poor lighting can often disguise or hide hazardous conditions. Local building codes often require a minimum level of lighting, with the value often being expressed in foot candles. Even OSHA acknowledges that all floors can t be clean and dry all of the time. Temporary safety items such as wet floor signs, barricade tape, traffic cones and other signage allow workers to quickly identify areas that may be unusually slippery and alert everyone to use increased caution in those areas. Like paper towels in the cafeteria, making these items readily available helps to encourage their use. No safety initiative is complete without proper training. Documenting training materials as part of the floor safety program allows them to be reviewed periodically so that they can be updated and changed as facility needs or processes change. Communicating floor safety plans to all employees helps them learn how to keep their work environment safer and lets them know what resources are available.
9 Keeping priorities Straight Floor safety plans are like many other safety documents: they need to be reviewed and need to change when processes or facility layouts change. When plans are reviewed, evaluate the efforts that have been made to determine if they have made an impact on slip and fall incidents. As plans are reviewed, make the safety committee aware of any findings good and bad so that it can be part of the minutes for their meeting. They may even be the ones to find new and better solutions! Evaluating the facility and creating a working floor safety program can t happen overnight, but the time invested will help reduce the potential for a leading cause of workplace injury and lost work time. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Karen D. Hamel is a technical specialist for New PIg Corporation. She has over 18 years of experience helping environmental, health and safety professionals find solutions to meet OSHA, EPA and DOT regulations. She is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, is NIMS certified, a HAZWOPER Technician, and serves on the Blair County, PA LEPC.